IT’S BEEN NINE YEARS since my last World Fantasy Con — which was held in Schaumburg, right down the street from where I work, and was also my first World Con. At that convention, I was still very much a newbie writer, knew no one and had no idea what to expect, but I made some great contacts — from Ken Wisman and Joe and Bobbi Morey who ran Dark Regions magazine to writers like David Smeds and P.D. Cacek, who would later write the intro to my first short story collection, Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions.
So I was definitely looking forward to finally returning to World Fantasy, which this year was just 3 hours from my home, in the same hotel I visited for Wiscon a couple years ago… and this time, I had lots of experience with conventions (I’ve been to 5 World Horror Cons, among others, during that time) and had lots of old friends I was looking forward to seeing. I wasn’t disappointed!
When I walked into the convention hotel, I was immediately greeted with a big hug by Alice Henderson (who has her first Buffy novel coming out next month — look for it!), who I last hung out with at the Stokers over the summer. She introduced me to Ken Swaim who was doing his first world con, and the weekend was off and running! It was a short weekend for me — I could only stay Thurs-Sat. afternoon, but it was a good time, though the tight time meant I barely got the chance to do more than say hello to folks like Maria Alexander, Mike Arnzen, Alan Beatts, Alice Bentley, Ellen Datlow, Christopher Golden, Jeremy Lassen, John Lawson and more. I did meet several editors and publishers, had a great talk about classic horror and supernatural writers with John Pelan (over an amazing home-made creme de menthe mixture at the Fedogan & Bremer party) and hung out a lot with Alice, Bill Gagliani, Steve Shrewsbury, and more.
Paula Guran pointed out how white my beard has gotten since the last time we met (sadly, it’s only been a couple years!) while we were talking with Chris Welch, and I had a great conversation at the Tor party about the current crop of horror writers with Tom Monteleone. I also finally met Jean Rabe there, who edited the Lone Wolf Pubs’ CD-ROM Carnival/Circus anthology that I contributed theme music to, and artist Lisa Albinger.
As usual, the best thing about the con was the dinner and party conversation. Alice, Ken, Lisa Lowrance, Roger Range and I all had a great Italian dinner Thursday night, and then we hooked up with Bill Gagliani for the Twilight Tales party celebrating the launch of the new Robert Weinberg book, The Occult Detective, which I designed.
It was very cool to walk into the party and see a giant blow-up of the cover art that I had created! I met Zane Melder of Edge Books, who I’ve worked with in the past on Twilight Tales’ behalf, which was very cool. We witnessed F. Paul Wilson drawn into a strange singing spree with Michael Fountain, Tina Jens and Viki Rollins there, and we met Mark Zirbel (a fellow Peepshow anthology contributor) there, and he and his fiance Jennie came down to my reading at 10 p.m. with Alice, Bill, and fellow Freaks, Geeks & Sideshow Floozies contributer Melinda Thielbar and her husband, video game designer Richard Dansky. After that it was back to the parties, and sometime around 3 a.m. Bill and I agreed that there had been enough whiskey consumed and bed was sought.
Somehow I was back on my feet, fed and coffeed again by noon on Friday, and enjoyed some lunchtime conversation with Deborah LeBlanc and Nancy Holder, before catching a panel, checking out the dealers room and then pulling together a small dinner gang that somehow transmogrified into 14 people!
Luckily, we stumbled upon a Japanese hibachi grill, and we all ended up sitting at one giant table around the grills. You gotta love having a chef cook your meal — and intentionally start fires — right in front of you. Then it was off to the mass signing, where I sold and signed a couple books, and more importantly, got some books signed by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Charles DeLint and Stephen R. Donaldson. Bob Weinberg and I traded stories of the perils of infants vs. sleep, Nancy Holder introduced me to editor Ginjer Buchanan and then I stowed my satchel of books in Bill’s room, and we went off to catch the parties.
Despite not smoking, I ended up in the smoking room of the Fedogan & Bremer party half the night with Dave Benton, John Pelan, Tim Lebbon and Ash-Tree’s Barbara Roden. I chatted a bit with Wayne Allen Sallee, and at some point Shrews and his friend Carrie (a fan of my “Pumpkin Head”) showed up, which led to the best line of the con when Carrie picked me up completely off the ground and twirled me in the air in a hug. Shrews turned around, shook his head in dismay and moaned, “Carrie, put John down!”
Dave Benton, a fellow musician, was adamant that I was going to repeat my 2004 Phoenix World Horror Con lark of playing the piano for the mob down in the hotel bar (Bill told him the story). While I wasn’t against the idea, I kept putting him off until later…by the time I was ready, Dave was gone and I had spent over an hour chatting with Dave Smeds about mutual friends, Circlet Press history and more. Another 3 a.m. curfew and I was back in bed for 6 hours of sleep before packing up, checking out and catching the last few hours of the con before heading home.
Lisa Albinger and I caught the Reviewer’s panel Bill and Paula were on, as well as the Charles Vess art presentation, and then, after quick chats with Randy Broecker (who I’d worked with on the art for the program book of Chicago World Horror Con 2002) and Alice, Nancy Holder and Ginjer Buchanan about media tie-ins, it was off to a quick lunch where Bill and Alice extolled the virtues of the Alphasmart as a substitute for a laptop when on the road. Then, too soon, I trudged back to the hotel in the rain, made a few goodbyes and that was it. Off to drive a dismal 3-hour ride home on thundering Saturday afternoon.
A whirlwind of a con, but great fun all around. Here are some pictures: